31.7.17

Forget about technical debt, it is the portfolio debt that may kill your company


If you have been in the software development industry for a while, like me, you probably heard a lot about the term “technical debt”. When that is mentioned, people refer to all those details on the code side that were not done or tested properly – which may cause problems that will cost way more to be solved later than if they had been avoided earlier.

What we typically do not talk about, though, and which I mean can have even bigger impact on the life of developers and companies alike, is something that we could call “portfolio debt”, for the lack of a better term.

What I am talking about is all those things that make (business) people in a software company decide to go ahead with requests that should not have been accepted in the first place. It includes all the lack of ground work on requirements (therefore “portfolio debt”), which result in developers spending lots of time doing things that smells like nobody is going to ever use them – or at least not use it in the way features are being done.

Do you feel my pain?

My feeling is that this is the single main source of waste of resources in our branch. Waste that not only costs companies a good deal of opportunities and revenue but that, in more severe cases, can make the whole thing go bankrupt. Even when a company is seating on a position that could otherwise be very profitable.

There are several reasons, I think, for why this happens. To name a few
  1. Calling things the wrong name – or all sorts of mental biases. Saying, for example, that this request comes from “Company A” instead of saying that it was mentioned in a meeting by “Mr. Smith, who happens to work at the department X of Company A” – that alone can make people treat a request differently, as if it deserved more credit and, in consequence, making it hard to challenge its content.
  2.  Too shy to show lack of technical understanding – nobody knows everything. A portfolio or product manager typically makes the bridge between business needs and the technical side. If he or she do not understand the technical aspects involved in a certain request, the assessment of cost/benefit in implementing it is compromised. In environments where there is no space to ask “silly” questions, however, one can go along forcing wrong views on a requirement, even despite eventual protests from developers.
  3.  Big companies, big egos – related to the previous case, but more into all those portfolio people that want to build their careers, and quickly jump up to the next position – so that winning an argument in a meeting means more, in the internal political grand scheme of things, than actually aborting a request whose returns are questionable.
  4.  Small companies, big dreams – in search of being the “next big thing”, portfolio personal in some small companies make bold assumptions about how the world is or will be soon, and get hooked on requirements that has very little to do with the current or potential revenue streams right here, right now.
These are just some examples, but there are many other reasons why requests get into the backlog, when they should simply have been rejected – or, at least, better negotiated/understood. Not doing so may not cost anyone’s salary at the end of the month, but certainly affects the sustainability of the company – and everyone’s salaries – on the longer term.

2.3.17

Veien til førerkortet


I denne uka fikk jeg ferdig lest Veien til førerkortet – Lærebok, klasse B (ATL, 2017, 281 sider). Og, ja, det betyr at jeg er faktisk på vei til å ta førerkort for å endelig kunne kjøre bil i Norge. Hurra!
 
Hvorfor kunne jeg ikke kjøre her, selv om jeg har hatt førerkort i Brasil for lengre enn ti år? Ja, nettopp. Og det er fordi da jeg kom fra Brasil, hadde jeg maks 6 uker for å søke til å bytte førerkort. Men det visste jeg ikke, og det var heller ikke en prioritet i midten av så mange ting å oppdage da jeg ankom i 2011.

I tillegg, offentlig transport i Oslo, og utenfor byen, er så god at jeg tenkte ikke så mye på førerkort, til jeg ble tobarnspappa og begynte å merke at kanskje det var på tide å skaffe seg en bil, for å gjøre barnehagen turer og hverdagen enklere.

Og det bringer oss tilbake til boken Veien til førerkortet, som var den som måtte leses for å lære seg hvordan trafikk fungerer i Norge. Og jeg må si at boken var veldig interessant, innholdsrik og veldig godt designet – med tanke på bilder, bruk av farger, etc.

Boken, i tillegg til www.teoritentamen.no side, var det nok for å hjelpe meg å bestå Teoriprøve på først forsøk. Så jeg kan bare bli fornøyd med den, og jeg får håpe at resten av veien til førerkortet fortsetter så bra som det har vært til nå!

5.6.16

Høyt og lavt


For et par uker siden ble jeg ferdig med lesning av Høyt og lavt, fra Bjørn Kjos, om historien av Norwegian flyselskapet (Aschehoug, 2015, 390 sider). Det var en fantastisk god bok!

Boken starter og går en god stund med en annenhver kapitel om Bjørn Kjos og en om Norwegians historie. I de kapitelene som fortalte hans egen historie, var jeg etter hvert ikke så veldig interessert i. Kanskje fordi entreprenørskap er det temaet som mest interesserer meg, og var den viktigeste grunnen til at jeg kjøpte boken på først plass.

De kapitelene som snakket om Norwegians historie var ekstremt gode, både på underholdning og entreprenørs fag nivåer. Hvis man tenker på at Norwegian ble, i løpet av bare cirka 10 år, en av de viktigeste lavkostnader flyselskapene i verden, og at det kom ut av den veldig høykostnad lille Norge, er det allerede super spennende å lese og forstå hvordan det ble av.

Boken sier mye, og det er også litt spennende, for meg i hvert fall, det som boken ikke sier. Det blir litt implisitt hvor tough har det vært for alle som måtte handle med Bjørn i løpet av tiden – fordi er det sikkert veldig frustrerende å forhandle med en så sterk type! Og det var også veldig interessant å forstå hvor viktig og sentralt finansen har vært for ham og de andre rundt ham – å ha en business som tjener penger ligger høyere, som verdien for dem, enn alt annet. Mye høyere.

Men én ting er sikker: Bjørn er en spesiell og ekstremt dyktig person, som har en global betydning for Norge. Hans vilje og evne til å gå mot alt som er i veien til suksess er nesten unik. Jeg skal heie på Norwegian i fremtiden og håper at flere som ham dukker opp ikke bare her i Norge men også i steder som mitt hjemlandet Brasil, og i hele verden. Fordi entreprenører som ham forandrer verden. For den beste.

14.2.16

Strategy Safari

I finished today reading this fantastic book called Strategy Safari (Henry Mintzberg, Bruce
Ahlstrand and Joseph Lampel, Second Edition, 2009, 441 pages). Definitely one of best readings I had in all my contact with business books. Why so good? Because it is scientific, imaginative, comprehensive.

It is not every day that one can call a book scientific, with the exception of normal textbooks, of course. Strategy Safari, although being produced by academics, and clearly some good ones, is not a textbook and is not “academical”. The book simply manages to achieve something that is not easy: to follow the rigor of a scientific field, but without sounding too technical or obscure.

Being a book written by good academic people means here not only rigor and quality of content, but also an inherently high quality of language. This kind of quality that just makes the reader eager to continue until the last page.

The book, notwithstanding, is also imaginative. First, because it chooses excellent analogies and metaphors by which to present its content – starting by the idea of inviting the reader to a safari around the beasts of the strategy world. In addition, excellent diagrams are present overall, and even good poetry. Such a level of elegance is only accessible to a combination of intelligence and maturity over the concepts involved.

Finally, the book is comprehensive in its analysis of strategy as a field, and not only the academic research field, but also that one of practitioners in the industry. The text goes from higher philosophical discussions to the lower levels of specific strategy receipts sold by consultancy firms. Always with plenty of sources and insights, and a good amount of quality criticism.

What can I say to conclude this short review? Just that you should absolutely read the Strategy Safari, if you have any interest in strategy whatsoever. The book is great, and you are not going to regret the time well spent with it.